Marvel TV chief Jeph Loeb has hired Cheo Hodari Coker, the African-American show-runner of Netflix’s latest superhero show, Luke Cage.
Coker is just one of several new black creators to join the print, TV, and film divisions at Marvel, one of the world’s most influential entertainment companies.
In the same year, Marvel Comics featured a black man as Captain America and a black woman as Iron Man. Zendaya was cast as Mary Jane Watson in an upcoming big-screen Spider-Man, co-produced by Marvel and Sony. Chadwick Boseman made his feature film debut as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War. Mike Colter’s Luke Cage will get 13 hours of story on Netflix which begun last week.
At a time when the national conversation around race has reached a boiling point, many think Marvel is recognising – in a way many entertainment companies have not – that black voices matter as much as black dollars.
Black Panther and Luke Cage can both trace their origins back to the 1960s and 1970s, but both characters were created and, for a long time at least, written by white men.
Jamie Broadnax, founder of the popular Black Girl Nerds Web site, told Vanity Fair: “As much as I hate the word pandering, I think Marvel has had a long history of doing so to bring in black readers and other readers of colour. I would always cringe a little bit, reading comic books with black characters written by white dudes”.
Black Panther has recently added to its already impressive cast with Forest Whitaker the latest actor joining the Marvel universe.
The actor – who will next appear in Star Wars prequel Rogue One – will join Chadwick Boseman. Whitaker will play Zuri, an elder stateman based in Wakanda, the fictional country home to Boseman’s warrior king T’Challa.
Black Panther will further explore the history of T’Challa
There’s still quite a while to go before Black Panther’s standalone outing with the film’s release date set for 18 February 2018.
David Brothers, a comics critic who has penned lengthy academic articles for marvel.com, says: “The greater the diversity of creators working with a company, the greater the storytelling opportunities that are available to that company. The black experience is vast – basically infinitely so – and no one experience should have primacy over another. They’re all valid”.